QUOTE TO NOTE: Pope Francis’ Vision for Bishops

February 28, 2014

computer_key_Quotation_MarksPope Francis addressed the Congregation for Bishops yesterday, laying out his vision for what qualities a bishop should possess and how the congregation must now go about appointing bishops. In a partial statement posted by News.va, the pope is quoted as saying:

“[W]e need someone who looks upon us with the breadth of heart of God; we do not need a manager, a company administrator…We need someone who knows how to raise himself to the height of God’s gaze above us in order to guide us towards Him…

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

“Since faith comes from proclamation we need kerygmatic bishops…Men who are guardians of doctrine, not so as as [sic] to measure how far the world is from doctrinal truth, but in order to fascinate the world…with the beauty of love, with the freedom offered by the Gospel. The Church does not need apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power. Men who are patient men as they know that the weeds will never fill the field…

“May bishops be shepherds, close to the people; fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of ‘princes’. Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they are not in quest of the episcopate, that they are espoused to the Church, without constantly seeking another; this is called adultery. May they be overseers of the flock that has been entrusted to them, to take care of everything that is needed to keep it united.”

Pope Francis also expressed a desire for bishops who can be in dialogue with the culture around them, and ordered a document reiterating the Council of Trent’s requirement that bishops be physically present in their dioceses.

While not directly related to LGBT matters, many have speculated that Pope Francis’ deepest legacy may come from his episcopal appointments. History has shown that bishops chosen for their pastoral nature, attentive to the reality of Catholics’ lives, are far more welcoming and accepting of LGBT people and their families. The appointments under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI focused on other criteria, creating an episcopate filled with culture warriors who often lacked pastoral instincts. It is early to know what effect this new pope will have, but Francis’ vision for bishops, and those in religious life generally, is quite hopeful.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Ugandan Catholic Bishops Are Mum on New Law; CAFOD Speaks Out Against It

February 28, 2014

Since news of the Ugandan law which criminalizes homosexuality made headlines in December when it was passed by parliament, people have been waiting to hear what that nation’s Catholic bishops thought of the measure.  Now that this week the law was signed by the country’s president, the Catholic bishops’ conference has spoken out against homosexuality, but have made no comment about the new law.

Monsignor John Baptist Kauta

Catholic News Service article published by the National Catholic Reporter notes:

” ‘Our reaction from the church is very clear, we don’t support homosexuality,’ Msgr. John Baptist Kauta, secretary-general of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, told Catholic News Service by phone Feb. 26.

“He said that when the anti-gay bill was first discussed, the country’s bishops had been against the harsh penalties it involved for homosexual acts, including the death penalty.

” ‘The bishops were not in favor of that,’ he said. ‘We were for compassion, and we believe (homosexuals) can change.’

“He said Uganda’s bishops were in a retreat and would not be available to comment on the new law until early March.

” ‘We normally don’t want to overreact,’ he said.”

What is most disturbing about the statement from the bishops’ representative is the mistaken view that someone’s sexual orientation can be changed.  It is tragically remarkable that church leaders would still hold such a position, given that so much has been written to the contrary over the past few decades.  Even the Catholic Catechism acknowledges that sexual orientation is not a choice.  Are these bishops ignorant not only of scientific knowledge but of their own catechism, as well?

As Bondings 2.0 reported in December, there has been hope that Archbishop Michael Blume, the papal nuncio to Uganda might influence that country’s bishops to speak out against the law, as they had done in year’s past when the death penalty was a part of it. Uganda’s population is 40% Catholic, the largest denomination in the country.

The news story also noted that a Vatican official has already stated his opposition to this type of law:

“Earlier in February, . . . the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, said that the church’s affirmation of the full dignity of all human beings led him to oppose laws that outlaw homosexuality.”

Because there seems to be some momentum to oppose such laws from Vatican officials, New Ways Ministry suggests that people send tweets to Pope Francis to encourage him to speak out against Uganda’s law, and other nations’ anti-gay bills and laws, as well.   The #PopeSpeakOut Twitter campaign resource page has sample tweets you can send.   In addition to sending tweets, we as that you promote this campaign on all your social media and email networks.

On a more positive note regarding Uganda, Independent Catholic News reports that the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has strongly condemned the new law:

“In a statement today CAFOD said: ‘Every human person has a fundamental dignity, as created by God, and each person is precious in God’s eyes. CAFOD therefore opposes all forms of discrimination, whether based on race, religion, gender or sexuality.

” ‘As was made clear by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in their 1986 letter to Bishops all over the world: “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”.’

“A spokesperson said parts of Ugandan society was already very hostile to homosexuality and she feared the new law will lead to increased violent attacks on people who are gay, or even suspected of being gay.”

CAFOD has strong connections with international development offices at the Vatican.  Let’s hope and pray that CAFOD will be able to use their influence to get the Vatican and the Ugandan bishops to condemn this heinous law.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Pope Francis’ Letter to All Families Hopeful Sign as Synod on Family Life Approaches

February 27, 2014

Pope Francis and the world’s cardinals in consistory at the Vatican.

Following last week’s consistory of cardinals, Pope Francis has written an open letter to families around the world asking for prayers and promising to include their voices in October’s synod on marriage and family life. There are also new details about what exactly happened during that consistory of 150 cardinals, as well as developments on how the Synod will take shape.

The letter was published Tuesday by Pope Francis as a means of further explaining  the upcoming synod, as the pope hoped to “come into your homes.” National Catholic Reporter quotes the letter as saying, in part:

” ‘This important meeting will involve all the People of God — bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular churches of the entire world — all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer”…

“Saying the synod is ‘dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church,’ the pope asks to ‘pray intensely’ for its success.”

Pope Francis concluded the letter with a blessing for “every family” without distinction.

Around the same time, the pope had been meeting with cardinals for closed-door discussions on family life which included comments from the pope, a two-hour address by German Cardinal Walter Kasper, and follow-up from 43 other cardinals. Discussion was said to include the matter of divorced and remarried Catholics, marriage preparations, and John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” according to reports from the National Catholic Reporter. It seems LGBT people and their relationships were not discussed, an ambiguous sign as there were neither condemnations nor positive discourse that had been public.

Elsewhere, the synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri spoke about the overall impression he had of responses coming in from the Vatican’s questionnaire released last fall. About 80% of national bishops’ conferences and 60% of Vatican congregations had submitted their responses, as well as 700 responses from Catholic organizations globally. According to the Catholic Herald, the cardinal said in an interview:

“[T]he responses show ‘much suffering, especially by those who feel excluded or abandoned by the Church because they find themselves in a state of life that does not correspond to the Church’s doctrine and discipline’…

“By urging bishops around the world to conduct the broadest consultation possible given the brief amount of time allotted, synod officials ‘sparked a spontaneous reaction that may seem surprising, but is actually proof of how necessary it is to go out of our offices’ to where people really live, he said.

“The results compiled by the bishops’ conferences, he said, show ‘the urgency of recognising the lived reality of the people and of beginning a pastoral dialogue with those who have distanced themselves from the Church for various reasons’.”

Finally, the names of the synod’s three presidents were announced during the consistory: Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila, Cardinal Raymundo Assis of Aparecida. They will rotate chairing the synod in October, and at least one, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, has a murky record on marriage equality after warning of the violence which might erupt if France passed equal marriage rights in 2013.

You can read Bondings 2.0‘s past coverage of survey results by typing ‘Synod’ in the Search box to the right.  We will be updating you, as more reports come in.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Condemn Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law As Discrimination Intensifies

February 26, 2014

MartinUganda_FinalLess than a day after Uganda criminalized homosexuality, a newspaper has already published the names and photos of 200 “top homosexuals” and President Yoweri Museveni repeatedly called gay people “disgusting” in an interview with CNN. This deteriorating situation has captured the attention of Christians speaking out against LGBT discrimination worldwide through the lens of Uganda.

America released this week’s editorial early under the title “When the Law is a Crime,” specifically addressing Uganda’s anti-gay law. Referencing Pope Francis’ famous statement “Who am I to judge?” in light of the violence and discrimination that inevitably results when such laws emerge, the editors write:

“It is especially disturbing that such legislation is immensely popular in predominately Christian countries like Uganda, where 40 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and the Catholic bishops have sent mixed signals about the legislation. When the bill was first considered in 2009, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of Kampala, speaking on behalf of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said it was ‘at odds with the core values’ of Christianity. When the bill was reintroduced in 2012, however, the Uganda Joint Christian Council, which includes Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox bishops, expressed support for the bill…

“The church’s vigorous support for traditional marriage, moreover, must be accompanied by advocacy for the human rights of gays and lesbians in equal measure. This is required by the church’s own teaching. Indeed, a growing number of Catholic leaders have offered unqualified support for the decriminalization of homosexuality…

“We add our voice to this swelling chorus. Pope Francis has described gay people as ‘socially wounded’ because ‘they feel like the church has always condemned them.’ Catholics must examine how we contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame…The church must oppose violence against gay persons and should strongly advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality. No one should be subject to a criminal penalty simply for being gay. If laws like these do not constitute the ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay people that the church rightly denounces, then what possibly could?”

Jesuit priest James Martin added his own commentary on Facebook, accompanying a graphic from AllOut. He spent time working in East Africa, visiting Uganda, and speaks highly of the people there. Still, he remains clear that these laws are intolerable:

“These new laws are part of a general pattern of oppression in Africa today, where in 38 countries homosexual activity is a criminal offense…The Catholic church in Africa has so far done little so far to protect their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from violence…

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu has rightly compared these laws and these attitudes to early anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany. They can also be compared to the kind of dehumanizing rhetoric that precedes and accompanies war and genocide. (During the Second World War, the Japanese were called ‘vermin’ by many Americans, and in the Rwandan genocide, Hutus were ‘cockroaches’ by many Tutsi.)

“Every Catholic, every Christian, every person, should oppose these laws. Every Catholic, every Christian, every person is called to love their brothers and sisters–straight or gay. Period.”

Expanding on this idea, Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a Baptist minister who is a senior religion editor at The Huffington Postclaims that precisely because Christians have contributed to LGBT oppression, either through action or indifference, we must be part of the liberation now. This extends beyond Uganda’s borders, and he notes the common thread from Uganda to Kansas to Russia is “Christian complicity.” He writes:

“Those of us who are Christian have to add to and embolden these voices with our own. Christians should make sure that their churches, friends and denominational leaders have a chance to meet and talk to LGBT people and understand how being targeted by these laws makes us feel. Christians should take to their own Facebook pages and other social media and stand with LGBT people.

“Religious leaders on every level must directly speak out against the complicity of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the targeting of God’s LGBT children. Pope Francis, I’m talking to you. It is time for you to use your prophetic voice and speak out against use of violence and for the full equality of LGBT people. All of those on Twitter should reach out to @Pontifex using #PopeSpeakOut

“Recent events around the world show us that sitting on the sidelines is no longer permissible — especially for Christians. We cannot let others speak for Jesus. Our faith is being used to do serious harm to LGBT people. Showing love for our neighbor today, as commanded by Jesus, means stepping up and standing in solidarity with our LGBT sisters and brothers around the world.”

In a statement reported on the GLAAD blog, DignityUSA’s executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke said:

“Our hearts and souls are joined with the people of Uganda, especially those whose lives and liberty are threatened by this horrific injustice. We pray that the majority of people, law enforcers, and those in government will continue to live in the recognition that all people embody the Divine, and pledge renewed vigor in working to overturn such discrimination. We call on the people and officials of the Catholic Church worldwide to recognize that such laws perpetrate violence on the entire body of Christ, and to lead efforts to repeal this and similar laws.”

Even National Catholic Reporter‘s Michael Sean Winters, who is sometimes critical of LGBT political issues, is strongly condemning Uganda’s law:

“It is a measure of a humane and Christian civilization that small minority groups have their human dignity protected. There is no straight line from Uganda to the death camps [of the Holocaust]. There is no line at all, just as the situation in Arizona is not like that in Uganda. But, what unites them is this: The Christian Church must learn how to promote family life without attacking the human dignity of gay men and women. That is foundational. It is a sin to do otherwise. The gravity of that sin differs from culture to culture. I do not expect Africa to embrace Upper West Side values tomorrow or anytime. But, the Church must proclaim the dignity of each and every human person in all places and at all times if we are to be true to our most basic dogmatic beliefs.”

If you’re looking to raise your own voice, please participate in #PopeSpeakOut. Send an email or a tweet to Pope Francis and encourage him to condemn Uganda’s anti-gay law and all efforts to criminalize homosexuality worldwide. You can find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Uganda’s Passage of Anti-Gay Law Should Compel Pope Francis to Speak Out

February 25, 2014

President Museveni signing the Anti-Homosexuality Law

Uganda’s president signed a major anti-gay law yesterday, which imposes penalties up to life imprisonment for homosexual activity and harsh penalties for establishing gay organizations an for those who do not report gay people, thus making it impossible to live an open life.  The new law highlights the need for Catholics, including Pope Francis and bishops around the globe to speak out against the rise of anti-LGBT legislation.

This new law comes after repeated delays by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to sign the bill, which LGBT advocates hoped was a sign he would reject it. Opposition against an anti-gay law in Uganda has been ongoing for several years. It has been one of the more prominent debates internationally due to provisions in an earlier version imposing the death penalty for homosexuality, causing many to dub it the “Kill the Gays” bill.

Since 2009, Catholics have joined these protests given that more than 40% of Ugandans are members of the Church. Frank Mugisha, a gay Catholic man, and others have led efforts internally to stop Uganda’s passage of the law. Catholics worldwide have raised their voices as well by signing letters of concern with other Christians and urged Catholic leaders to do the same. Equally Blessed, a U.S. coalition of four Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) issued 2012 statement  urging US bishops to speak out. Former US ambassador to the Holy See Thomas Melady called on religious leaders to condemn such laws, and a letter to Uganda’s papal nuncio from Brother Brian McLauchlin, a New Ways Ministry volunteer, received a positive reply that the nuncio would be working to halt any anti-gay law alongside Uganda’s bishops. Most notably, South Africa’s leading Catholic newspaper, the Southern Cross, wrote a strongly worded editorial about the need to stop anti-LGBT laws as part of the Church’s larger defense of human rights.

Yet, unfortunately, Uganda’s bishops and the Vatican failed to defend the human rights of gay people. The national bishops conference reversed its subdued opposition to the anti-gay law and joined a vocal ecumenical effort to criminalize homosexuality. Despite repeated calls for action, including the ongoing #PopeSpeakOut campaign by people of faith, Pope Francis and other Church leaders have not come out publicly against these types of laws which are on the rise. Nations such as Russia and India have imposed new restrictions on gay people, while 38 of 54 African countries ban homosexuality.

During Pope Francis’ message for the 2014 World Day of Peace, he reflected on the theme of our shared humanity and Bondings 2.0 wrote at the time:

“Pope Francis imagines a church that ‘speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights.’  Where is that church when it comes to the human rights of LGBT people? In 2014, Catholics need to speak out for human rights in a way that includes LGBT people suffering from discrimination and violence.”

Uganda’s passage of this new law is a troubling sign, and adds to the anti-LGBT movement whose laws breed a culture saturated with discrimination and violence targeting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Pope Francis has captured global attention by refocusing the Catholic Church on issues of social justice, and he must now use his moral authority to protect the lives and well-being of every person.

Now is the moment to raise your voice as well. Will you send him a tweet or write a letter as part of #PopeSpeakOut? Find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Gonzaga U. To Implement Transgender-Inclusive Policies

February 24, 2014

Gianni Giuliani, a transgender graduate student at Gonzaga University

While existing resources are available for transgender students at Gonzaga University Spokane, Washington, administrators knew more could be done to support gender-diverse students. The Gonzaga Bulletin, a campus newspaper, reports on upcoming changes:

“These new policies would focus on specific areas of the college system that could create barriers for transgender students. Some of these changes would include the addition of gender-neutral bathrooms, a system in which students in transition can discretely change their name on all school-related records, a policy that would permit transgender students to live in the residence where they are most comfortable, as well as make medical resources easily available and non-discriminatory.”

Jaime Hollis, coordinator for special populations, said at least two motivations prompted these policies changes. The first was wanting to conform the University to Washington State law which protects sexual identities. The second is that even with the LGBT Resource Center and supportive staff in other departments, without official policy, transgender students face an uphill challenge. This could be detrimental to Gonzaga’s admissions in the future as people identify at younger ages as transgender due to broader acceptance and information in society. Hollis is quoted as saying:

” ‘If you look at the trend, [with] access to the Internet people are identifying younger as transgender because they now have the language to identify what they’re going through…Because of those dynamics, I think it’s really likely that we’re going to see an increase in trans students at all levels of education.’

“Hollis wants a system to be in place before the school has to deal these challenges.”

It appears making Gonzaga a more trans-inclusive campus will help existing students as well. The head of the University’s LGBT club, HERO, denied knowing any transgender students who were a part of it and spoke to the difficulties of being out at the school given its location in a small, rural city. The Bulletin spoke with one transgender student, Gianni Giuliani, who attended Gonzaga for undergraduate studies and is now a graduate student:

“Giuliani said he faces no major challenges on campus today, but he said that things were harder for him as an undergrad at GU from 2005 to 2009 when he was in the middle of his transitioning process.

” ‘It was really uncomfortable having to change my name and gender through the registrar’s office…Although they weren’t particularly nasty to me, it was just kind of an odd feeling … I felt they could have been more accepting of what that process is all about.’

“While Giuliani is an out and active member of the Spokane transgender community and regularly volunteers at the Inland Northwest LGBT resource center, he has never made a point of coming out on campus.

” ‘I wasn’t out…I never tried to blend in and make a big deal of it. I didn’t tell anyone. I just tried to integrate so people probably just assumed I was another guy. I might not have taken that route if there were policies in place to ensure safety and inclusion. I’d have felt like it was OK to come out.’ “

Gonzaga University was one of the first Catholic, and the first Jesuit, college in the United States to offer an LGBT Resource Center starting in 2004. The University is continuing to take its commitment to the LGBT community seriously by focusing on specific policy reforms, rather than just statements of welcome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Japanese Bishops Strikingly Honest in Report on Family & Marriage

February 23, 2014

Yet more bishops’ conferences are releasing the results of surveys and consultations made in preparations for next fall’s Synod on Marriage and Family Life. Bondings 2.0 provides another round-up of these releases below and you can read about previous coverage of other nations in the ‘Related Posts’ section at the bottom of this page.

Japan

Approaching the survey from a non-European perspective, the Japanese bishops have been bluntly critical in their responses to the survey results and of the survey itself. National Catholic Reporter states:

“…church teachings are not known in their country and the Vatican’s Europe-centric view hampers efforts at evangelization in places where Catholics represent a small minority of the population.

“In a sometimes pointed 15-page report issued in preparation for an October meeting of the world’s bishops, known as a synod, the Japanese state the church ‘often falls short’ by ‘presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness.’…

” ‘It is necessary to go beyond merely saying to men and women who do not follow Church norms that they are separated from the community and actively provide them with opportunities to encounter the Christian community,’ the Japanese state.”

In their report ( official English translation, available here), the Japanese bishops were limited in what they said on LGBT matters. Addressing mostly marriage rights for same-gender couples, the bishops state it is not a prevalent topic in Japanese society at large and may grow in prominence as toleration of gay and lesbian people grows. Of note, the Japanese bishops observe  that transgender people are being granted marriage rights legally. Their responses in the section “On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex” were all limited to single sentences, and lack of detail is most telling, as they write:

“b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the

promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type
of union?

“1. The State does not promote such marriages and the Church has not developed a
particular attitude toward the possibility of eventual change.

“c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of
union?

“1. There is as yet no special pastoral attention.

“d) ) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be
done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

“1. So far, there have been no cases of this in Japan.”

Ireland

Following their English counterparts, Ireland’s bishops are refusing to release details about their information gathering efforts, with a conference spokesperson stating any release would “undermine the integrity of the information collection process,” according to UCA News.

Canada

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is remaining quiet as well. Even as they forgo a public release of survey results, comments by the president, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, are revealing about both the results and what this leading prelate imagines the Synod to be. The Star reports:

“In Canada, engagement with the survey was mixed. The Archdiocese of Toronto simply linked to the survey on its website and anyone who wanted to respond did so directly with the conference of bishops. But in Gatineau, where Durocher is the archbishop, priests in the Quebec diocese were asked to engage parishioners on five questions of their choice.

“Durocher doesn’t expect doctrinal change from the synods. He describes the survey as the church facing reality: Whether it likes it or not, Catholics are divorcing and Catholic gay couples are adopting babies. How then should the church care for them?

“He gives the example of a gay couple who want their adopted child baptized. Before that can happen for any child, there must be a ‘grounded hope’ the child will be raised as a Catholic. How does a priest determine that when the child’s parents, as a married gay couple, have violated church doctrine? Is it best to wait until the child can decide for him or herself? Such are the kind of guidelines Durocher hopes the synods will provide.”

Combined with reports from Germany’s bishops and those of other European nations, it appears bishops are finally openly admitting the hierarchy’s positions on sexuality, marriage, and family life are out of touch on a number of levels. What happens when they meet in October remains an open question, but check back tomorrow for further commentary on what else could impact the Synod’s outcomes.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry 

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